Race in America has flared up once again. It is unfortunate that the race issue has continued to be a factor. It has been nearly two years since the election of President Barack Obama. It was thought that America had finally grown up and was potentially transitioning into adulthood. The election was a signal that America was getting beyond its petulant teenage or twenty-something years and moving forward somewhat graciously into a pragmatic thoughtful entity. The honeymoon barely lasted a month, when the near collapse of the US economy curtailed the visions and hopes of the citizenry.
The opposition party, the Republicans, used the failing economy as an excuse to become the party of “no.” No help to the unemployed (see Cantor; Unemployed; Politics Daily; Angle). No help to creating jobs (See Jobs). No help to financial responsibility (Senate; Snow; Passage), and no to healthcare (Cantor; Obama On passage). Alas, if the Republicans were the President Obama’s only problem then he would be in pretty good shape domestically.
Fortunately, the collapse of the economy was thwarted by the swift action of the elected Democratic majority-led Senate, Congress, and the President with the Stimulus Recovery Package. But, the economic recovery and American optimism are disjointed. Million of Americans are still unemployed. Job creation remains stagnate, and the American public feels devoid of the promise they once felt, when President Barack Obama was elected.
Today, the country seems even more polarized than before the 2008 election. The political opposition and the conservative news outlets are in hysterics, emotionally and rhetorically. Since the election, the conservatives, and actually prior to, the extreme right wing wrought in conniption fits has been messaging the public sphere with conspiracy after conspiracy. Everything from President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, to him being a secret Manchurian candidate, to him being a communist, a socialist, or Hitler – and importantly a racist. The first African American president is a racist according the right-wing ideologues. Rush Limbaugh (on January 16, 2009) stated that he wants President Obama to fail. Glenn Beck (on July 28, 2009) declared that President Obama has a “hatred for white people.” Yet, the political atmosphere of angst, dissension, and a general sense of maladie du cœur et l’esprit (a sickness of the heart and mind) has the electorate more divided than ever.
The conservative media, such as Fox News, and the “main stream” media, and the political dirty tricks of web bloggers are driving the issue of race, from both sides of aisle. The American public bears the brunt of the media saturation. The latest round of race claim, initially from Andrew Breibart website BigGovernment.com set into motion a claim of racism by an USDA government official—Shirley Sharrod. The conservative media pick up the allegation, Fox News Channel (July 20, montage ) and called for her resignation. The following 48 hours was tumultuous, from indignation and outrage calling for Shirley Sherrod's head (from both sides) to indignation and outrage, calling out President Obama’s administration apparent lack of spine and its hypersensitivity and lack of judgment in “railroading” Shirley Sherrod to turn in her resignation.
The administration rushing to judgment of Shirley Sherrod, especially by her supervisors, agriculture chief Tom Vilsack (apology), let the conservative media set the framework and context of the story on race. The conservative media, from the Bill O’Reilly to the on hour breaking news by Fox Channel demonized Shirley Sherrod for racism, based on an edited video of her speech at a March meeting with NAACP. The Fox News Channel rushed to judgment based on the posted video by Andrew Breitbart’s website, but later castigated President Obama’s administration for doing the very same thing.
Did President Obama administration rush to judgment? You betcha! Did the conservative media rush their judgment? You bethca! Did the NAACP rush to judge? You betcha! Did Andrew Breitbart rush to judge? Nope. Why? Because he had the full context of the video and he deliberately went out of his way to defame Ms. Sherrod and the NAACP. He set the framework of the debate to discredit the NAACP; and he was using this as a “teaching” moment, so he says. In truth, Andrew Breibart’s actions were malicious and motivated. His actions were not accidental. Were the actions of Fox News malicious? No. But were they accidental and unmotivated? No. The Fox News Channel on a regular basis over sensationalizes elements of race. Fox News Channel goes out of its way to frame the debate in terms of race and uses the false argument of reverse racism to justify their indignation. Fox News Channel goes out of its way to be in opposition with policy matters that has to do with President Obama’s administration.
Admittedly, so does the main stream media stir the flames of racism. In part, whether conservative or liberal, the current atmosphere of report for better part of two decades has been driven by conflict. The media uses conflict; in the sense of violence, in the sense of terror, in the sense of emotion – fear, anger, and revenge. The media in it various concoctions, distorts, defames, and divides the citizenry based on their gender, their race, and their ethnicity. The media divides young and old and those that are outside the “mainstream.” Today political polarization is the norm. Instead of consensus and cooperation, the political construct now includes the fringe element of the extremes, in which divisiveness drives the debate. On the left, the nannyists, and on the right the moralists, but these are not the only extreme actors within political theatre. With the advent of the Internet, the anonymous can rage against the machine without the consequences of accountability, but it also allows for the unification of like minds. For instance, the rise of the Tea Party is a mixture of independents, Democratic and Republican party members—that feel disenfranchised and marginalized from the political system, and as within any new movement the extremes are shape the messaging.
In the case of the Tea Party, their primary message has been purportedly about the expansion of government and taxes. Yet, the underlying message that has coincided with the Tea Party messaging is its xenophobic fear of others, both foreign and domestic, and its unrelenting fixation on race and the race of the President. With the denouncing of Hispanics and Blacks as communists and socialists, and illegal aliens as inhuman villains, the strain on race relations has deteriorated. The Tea Party the selfishness quotient to new levels and. It part, the Tea Party (and some mainstream Republicans see Michelle Bachman) demonizing of the races as supplicants, weak-kneed purveyors looking for handouts, articulating that black Americans are out to get white Americans (see the Black Panther controversy, Hannity).
All in all, the Shirley Sharrod controversy teaches us that depending on the “objectivity” of the mass media for our information can be filtered with skewed political leanings and must be judged with a critical eye. Furthermore, the political antipathy that is generated by the sluggish economy and the xenophobic extremists is ripping the scar off of race-relations and creating unnecessary divisions among American. Instead of working together and creating unity, the political opposition is willing to subvert the future of the United States with fervor and vitriol to regain the power they lost due to their greed, incompetence, and their lust for power.